Recently, it has been proposed that the doses received from 133Xe released during the accident in 1979 at the Three Mile Island (TMI) plant in Pennsylvania were much higher than has been conventionally assessed, due to a gross underestimation of the relative biological effectiveness of electrons from beta-particle-emitting radionuclides within the body. The central evidence cited in support of this proposal was the doses derived from cytogenetic analyses of blood sampled in the mid-1990s from people living near TMI at the time of the accident. However, the chromosome aberration data show a marked discrepancy in biodosimetric estimates evaluated from the frequencies of stable translocations and unstable dicentrics (corrected for temporal attenuation), strongly suggesting that exposures to clastogenic agents occurred long after the TMI accident. Few details have been reported on the people providing the blood samples and how they were selected for study. Crucially, this lack of information includes the distributions in the exposed and control groups of age at sampling, which is a critical factor in interpreting translocation data. Contrary to the recent claim, these cytogenetic data offer no support to the suggestion of a serious underestimation of internal doses from beta particles or from 133Xe discharged during the TMI accident.
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Vol. 195 • No. 6